Will Baldwin ‘make’ or ‘break’ for the Chiefs?

December 02, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jon Baldwin (89) signs autographs for the fans before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I have wrote about this subject before, but when I saw a former NFL scout and a current NFL writer talk about it on Twitter, I figured I’d pass along what was said to you. The subject: the make or break season for the Chiefs wide receiver Jon Baldwin.

The former NFL scout you might know on twitter as @NFLosophy. He is a self-proclaimed “former NFL Ops Coordinator,” and while he wishes to remain anonymous on the social networking site, his tweets and the blog he has recently started running to put his thoughts on a larger format suggest he really knows his stuff. So, assuming he is what he says he is, which I believe he is, I found it very interesting to see what he had to say about Baldwin.

Here’s what he wrote:

When I look at Jon Baldwin on film, the first thing that sticks out to me is his size. He’s 6-4, 228lbs. of muscle and tested well at the combine. Just by looking at him and his athleticism, Baldwin should be a monster at wide receiver. He’s the type of receiver that offensive coordinators salivate over and cornerbacks don’t want to face.

Somewhere between the lines, that size and athleticism hasn’t translated. Baldwin simply hasn’t looked physically superior to anyone that he’s faced. Baldwin shows flashes of being a receiver that will go after the ball no matter where it’s at. He’s been a bit stone-handed in his two years in the league, though I give him a little bit of a break as his quarterbacks rarely threw balls on target or on time. Football Outsiders has Baldwin at a 43% catch rate in 2012. It’s hard to continue to make excuses for Baldwin as he was out performed by fellow Chiefs receivers who possessed far less physical talent.

Verdict: Make. After all that, I still think Baldwin will come through this season as a success. There are two major reasons aside from his physical make-up: coaching and quarterback. Alex Smith will easily be the best quarterback that Jon Baldwin has played with in the NFL. Smith isn’t a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s smart and he’s accurate. Just as importantly, Baldwin will finally get the NFL coaching that his physical skills deserve. For as much as Andy Reid is known as a QB guru, not enough attention has been given to how he consistently churns out good wide receivers. Freddie Mitchell should have been thanking Reid and not his own hands for any success he had in the NFL.

His optimism is encouraging, considering that Chiefs fans have had very few reasons to be encouraged by Jon Baldwin since he came into the league as the team’s first round pick in 2011, and the fact that he sees an emergence around the corner should leave you feeling even more excited about our rejuvenated offense. But then someone had to come in and rain on our parade.

Doug Farrar, a writer for Yahoo Sports, responded back to NFL Philosophy about Baldwin with far less optimism about his future. He said “I had major issues with Baldwin all the way back to his Pitt tape. I didn’t see it.” And in case you doubted his doubt, he linked his article about Baldwin leading up to the 2011 Draft. This is some of what he wrote:

Pros: Presses off the line and gets up to speed pretty impressively for his size; could be an asset on slip screens. Will jump and catch in traffic even when he knows the big hit is coming, and he’s an imposing target when he gets vertical. Will stretch for passes downfield and can do so without losing a lot of speed — potentially devastating on 9-routes for that reason. Will physically overwhelm smaller defenders inside on slants, digs, and posts. Succeeded in a Pitt program with a limited passing game, generally unspectacular quarterbacks, and his role as the primary target of most every pass defense he faced.

Cons: Tends to struggle with his body control on tight timing routes — understandable to a point, since he’s a tall, high-waisted player, but he looks like he’s on skates at times and that will need to be fixed at the next level. Tends to turn his body instead of moving his feet in place on comebacks. Good inline speed, but doesn’t have that extra gear to accelerate downfield to make tight catches — better at jumping and diving in those cases. Size gets in his way when he tried to juke defenders in space; he doesn’t have especially quick feet to get free in short areas. Not always physical enough when he needs to be — for example, when he’s boxed out downfield by a cornerback, he doesn’t always push and move out or up to stay open. Isn’t quick to turn upfield; his motion is more a half-circle than a quick turn-and-dash.

Conclusion: There are some fairly major issues that pop off the tape when you watch Jon Baldwin, but it’s difficult to know how many of the fundamental issues about his play would have been fixed had he been in a more dynamic offense in which he wasn’t the primary focus. His struggles in the combine drills, however, didn’t help his case — asked to succeed in a neutral environment, Baldwin showed a lot of rust in frills and when trying to catch passes in quick-cut situations. Malcolm Kelly had some of those same issues, and would have benefitted from a team with higher standards and better overall teaching and schematic discipline. Unfortunately, Kelly got the Jim Zorn Redskins, and whatever is it Mike Shanahan’s trying to do these days. Baldwin may need a better environment to succeed in the NFL.

To be fair, Baldwin hasn’t had a very good environment to succeed in the NFL, seeing as his starting quarterbacks have included a who’s who of awful. But then again, Baldwin hasn’t done anything besides tear up training camps to show that he is a legitimate option for the future. And let’s hand it to Farrar, his scouting of Baldwin was pretty spot on. And although Baldwin has outperformed his comparison player, Malcolm Kelly (who was out of the league after two seasons), his future in the NFL is still uncertain.

But let’s not get hung up on the 2011 Baldwin, or even the 2012 Baldwin, what do you think Baldwin is going to do in 2013? Will Baldwin be a ‘make’ or a ‘break.’ Let’s hope the unemployed former NFL Ops Coordinator is right, and Baldwin will be an impact this season.

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • P Heitman

    I’m sticking with a “wait and see” perspective when it comes to Baldwin. Anything other than being mediocre will be a surprise, and a bonus. Can he do it? Sure. Will he? Mehh….

    Baldwin serves as a perfect analogy for the Chiefs in general. We’ve heard hype for a while now. Can the Chiefs be a good football team? Absolutely. Will they? Who knows. I think the changes made this offseason puts everyone on the team in a better position to succeed, including JB…but I wouldn’t be surprised if it still took a year or two for this team to come together. The Chiefs will be around in a year or two, though. Baldwin may not.

  • Jason Seibel

    I’m reserving judgement on J.B., as he’s known on the team, until the season starts. Last year I bought in to too much of the hype regarding his circus catches while the D-Bowe Show was on hiatus.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I’m expecting very little from Baldwin at this point. I think the Chiefs need to use him as a possession receiver for now (that’s basically what he is) and help him build some confidence. Baldwin plays like a guy Dexter McCluster’s size. Until he learns how to use his physical gifts, I suspect he’ll always be a disappointment.

    • micah stephenson

      I agree. He has Calvin Johnsons size but cant beat the press, cant create seperation, has sloppy route runing and goes for the one handed grab too much. He needs to get it together.

      • KCPauly

        Total agreement

      • Stacy D. Smith

        I’m excited he’ll get to work with a guy like Andre Reed. I’m praying that helps accelerate his progress.

        • micah stephenson

          Mmm. I hope that helps.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            Certainly can’t hurt. Reed was a tall WR. He’ll understand the challenges Baldwin faces.

      • berttheclock

        Dang it all, micah, for once, I agree with you. Something must be starting to freeze down down down yonder.

  • Austin Wagner

    I don’t see Baldwin as a make or break player. Him being productive would certainly help the offense, but if he doesn’t produce the offense will not become stagnant. He has way more upside appeal than downside. If he plays well he will add an additional big nasty receiver opposite Bowe. If he doesn’t, I’m sure Avery, McCluster, Charles, Moeaki, Kelce, or Fasano would love to have Baldwin’s share of pass attempts

  • Billie Cabral

    Good read Nate. @NFLosophy has some interesting points. I think J.B has underachieved due to lack of being able to beat the press from guys half his size and horrendous Qb play but that didn’t stop D. Bowe from turning out good years! To his dismay the QB’s that have thrown him the ball can’t hit the back side of a barn or a 6’4″ monster in J.B in this case. A lot of his con’s can be eliminated through practice and technique. He has been a camp player making spectacular catches and reason why is the ball was NOWHERE near him. Vision a QB that can/will put the ball in the right spot AND on time!

    I’m hoping he can use this chip on his shoulder (of being an underachiever) to blow the smaller DB’s off the line and drag them across the field when he gets the ball. Imagine J.B destroying one side meanwhile D. Bowe creating havoc on the other, then combine our rushing attack with sneaky TE’s, WOW. Then we have a bolstered secondary. Could be a GREAT year. Go Chiefs!!!

  • Caleb Wylie

    Im predicting around 550 yards and 3 TD for him this year, and that would be consider a success by many, still by now he should be looking for a 1000 yard season, he has everything to be a top ten receiver, I hope he can reach that potential!

  • thabear04

    As long he make the catch..score the TD and move the chains will be happy.

  • Jarad

    REDZONE MISMATCH! Im betting on him being a major factor in the redzone. KC has the luxury of putting A LOT of size out on offense. Whether its blocking on a JC sweep or going up for fade/jump ball, Baldwin will be a factor in the RZ!!

  • Jim Harper

    Baldwin will have to have an outstanding camp (by Reid’s standards) in order to earn the #2 spot. Up to this point in his career nobody has made him accountable for his play. Haley probably would have had it not been for the broken hand incident and subsequent dismissal. There will be no mulligans from Reid. He either puts up or ships out. My preference would be for him to turn into the next Plaxico without the gun in his pants, but I have every confidence Reid will get it right.

    • micah stephenson

      Lol. He has good camps. He needs to start having good games!

      • Jim Harper

        What I said Micah, was an outstanding camp by Reid’s standards. That is quite different than his previous good camps

        • micah stephenson

          O. So what he HAS done in camp wont impress Ried

          • Jim Harper

            Nor did I say that! Just forget it Micah.

  • micah stephenson

    I like JBs size. He needs to step it up. No more no QB or coaching as an excuse. He is a step to slow so id only use him inside the 20s and on possesion catches. I dont think he can stretch the field with his speed so I think Avery might get a chance to earn that 2 spot. It will b intresting.

  • micah stephenson

    Heeeey!!!! Why can D.Bowe put up numbers with any QB but the other wrs cant? Are we being too easy on the rest of our wrs?

    • Nick Weisbeck

      because they had a hard time looking at the second read

      • micah stephenson

        Idk. We might b being too nice to the other wrs. I guess with a different QB and Ried there shud b no mo excuses.

    • KCPauly

      Qb’s did.’t know there was other wr’s lol…Go Chiefs!!!

      • micah stephenson

        Lol.

    • Jarad

      I get what youre saying here, but at the same time, Cassel would not go through his progressions.He looked at the #1 option for that play then check down . We all saw it, and so did defenses! Dex Charles etc would get lit up in the flat because EVERYONE knew Cassels tendencies. Thats my opinion why Bowe was the only contributor.

      • micah stephenson

        And what about the QBs not named Cassel, they dont go to read 2, 3, or 4? Im not gone even ask about the 4, but reads 2 & 3?

  • Nick Weisbeck

    I stopped reading the article. I think he makes it. First season was a wash and the catch behind champs back was the most ridiculous catch I have ever seen. He just needs what we all need… A Good quarterback!

    • Jarad

      You thinking of the catch that didnt count behind Brian Dawkins? If so, yea!! That was incredible! So frustrating that it didnt count

      • berttheclock

        BTW, Brian Billick was doing the radio for that game and he kept raving about it, however, Mark Malone did a later game and he was vicious about the play of Baldwin. He said he was lazy as he did not power out of cuts, refused to look back (he was even hit in the back of his head) and appeared to have no ability to fight off D-backs.

  • KCMikeG

    Does anyone know if Bowe, Baldwin or any others from our receiving corps are attending the camp Fitz holds? It definitely made a difference for Bowe.

    • berttheclock

      The only camp I’ve heard mentioned concerning Baldwin is the one Palko throws for his Pop Warner guys back in Pittsburgh. Understand Baldwin was really turning heads against some of the 5 foot d-backs.

  • berttheclock

    For those interested in reading Walter Football pre-draft reports come the next draft, I suggest you go back and compare Matt McGuire’s take on Jon Baldwin and Cox’s review of Torrey Smith. McGuire raved about Baldwin, while, Cox thought Smith would be no better than a complimentary player. Both were wrong.
    Can’t find it, but, I read a couple of years ago another scouting report on Baldwin pre his draft. The scout kept stating how Baldwin had problems separating from tight coverage and did not know how to use his hands to fight off D-backs. However, he did excel against lesser D-backs in the Red Zone.

  • micah stephenson

    I just thought about something. 6’5 Baldwin vs 6’3 Sean Smith in training camp, O My GOSH!!!!! I CAINT WAIT.

  • Jim Butler

    Have faith, GO CHIEFS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jimfromkcj

    The season as well as Baldwin depends on how the offensive line does. If they can hold their own long enough for Smith to make his reads Baldwin will do well, and the team will do well overall. I look for the line to be tentative the first half and assertive in the second half, barring injuries of course.

  • tm1946

    To me, it looks like we “need” Baldwin to succeed. Other than Bowe, there is not all that much talent at WR. Toss in we also need Moeaki to be a presence at TE….well let’s say the RBs will be catching a lot out of the backfield.

    But if it is covered with feathers and quacks, it is probably a duck. Baldwin is what he is, huge player, jumper but a loper who cannot beat smaller DBs. Toss in – does not run patterns….hello, duck.

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